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Comment: Re:"as a means to raise awareness ..." (Score 1) 70 70

Depends on what the term "killer asteroid" means. For a once-in-five-hundred-thousand-year civilization destroying asteroids larger than 1 km we have already identified all of them. Possible threats from this population can be projected developing centuries in the future.

For the less extreme threats in the ranges from 100 meters to 1000 meters (which covers impacts in an energy range from 100 megatons to 100,000 megatons) we do have a good way to go, but we are closing in on a 90% detection rate for the larger members of this group.

A 100 meter, 100 megaton asteroid can destroy a city, if it hits it, but is only a localized threat. The large majority of such impactors will cause little or no loss of life since only about 1% of Earth's surface is urbanized. Unless the target is a city the most practical means of dealing with the threat will be local evacuations. For this size a month's warning should be sufficient to deal with the situation. This size can also be completely destroyed by a nuclear explosion, so that a ready-for-launch strategic-sized nuclear warhead could be employed.

A significant fraction of severe threats can never be handled by an Earth-surface survey program - the threat posed by long period comets. This represents as much as 20% of the total threat, but these can only be detected effectively by space-based infrared telescopes, and the warning we will get will only be a couple of years in advance as they approach from the outer reaches of the solar system.

Comment: Re:quotation marks (Score 1) 424 424

The solution, then, is to understand how Google treats punctuation within even a quoted string and modify your search accordingly.

That solution would be a much better solution if the rules for how Google treats punctuation were explicit, easily discoverable and consistent.

If you can point me to a page of documentation revealing these rules, I will appreciate it. Googling for it (assuming it exists) has so far been unsuccessful.

In fact the bit about "consistent" we know is not true, since Google tells us it isn't:

  • "Except for the examples below, Google Search usually ignores punctuation" (usually means unspecified exceptions),
  • and
  • "Even though you can use the punctuation marks below when you search, including them doesn’t always improve the results. If we don't think the punctuation will give you better results, you'll see suggested results for that search without punctuation."
  • (We will ignore what you type whenever we think we know better than you.)

Comment: Re:quotation marks (Score 3, Interesting) 424 424

I agree with AC. The comments by grimmjeeper and Spazmania here are bizarre.

The fact that "." has been used a wildcard in Kleene grammars, and used in regular expressions, is irrelevant.

There is nothing in Google's query instructions that suggests that search strings in quote are regular expressions, or is a Kleene grammar of any sort, or that a period is even a wildcard. It explicitly states that the asterisk is a wild card, no mention of a period.

Comment: Re:two schools of thought rear their ugly heads (Score 1) 272 272

Deflection:possibly, but into what or where?

Easy: away from Earth. It is only the fact that at one point in its multi-billion year orbital history that it happens to come within 4000 miles of the Earth's center of mass that we care about. If we make it miss, by even a small distance, it will continue (typically) for billions of years more.

Asteroid deflections is really just a process of cosmic sheepherding - keeping the orbits of the big rocks from becoming (and remaining) Earth intercepting ones.

Comment: Re:Way Premature - And Probably Unnecessary (Score 1) 272 272

Actually I should have simply said that only "one system be kept ready", not that only one should be built. So make it two, even three for back-up. Well established launch systems have reliability rates of 95%, so high levels of redundancy are not really called for. Still not 10-20. And it still only is needed for one corner case of relatively small threat magnitude. More serious threat call for special missions and have threat timelines long enough to organize them.

Actually testing the interception system was stipulated, but having tested it, you know how to build more.

Comment: Way Premature - And Probably Unnecessary (Score 2) 272 272

There are wide variety of possible cosmic collision threats - with only rare once-a-century (or less frequent) size events being candidates for any sort of deflection scheme. More frequent ones we can absorb with minimal damage. The 2013 Chelyabinsk event was a 20 meter class asteroid, and we get hit with a few of these a year. Even a repeat of the Chelyabinsk over a much larger city would not be catastrophic, as a natural catastrophe it might rank as a "major storm" in terms of damage potential.

It is larger asteroids, above the 20 meter size, that are destructive enough to consider an international interception mission.

Barringer Crater in Arizona is an example of a 50 meter object (a once in a millennium event), such an impact would be highly destructive in a populated area. Current collision threat programs have identified 96% of the "civilization ender" 1+ km class objects (once in a million year event), and are moving toward identifying 90% of the 140 meter class (once in 10,000 years).

The ideal method dog dealing with any collision threat is to detect it long in advance, accurately measure its trajectory, and then modify it just enough to avoid a predicted collision years later (perhaps many decades later, even centuries later for really big ones). Smaller objects need smaller nudges and can be diverted at later dates than big ones. An aggressive monitoring system is the first line of defense, without detection there can be no defense, and the better your detection the easier deflection becomes, and the cost of monitoring is much less than a single interception mission.

A variety of nudging techniques have been proposed: kinetic collision diversion, gravity attractor tugs, and nuclear deflection schemes primarily, but all of them are in early stages of development and have some promise. Different deflection schemes might be needed based on the nature of the threat object (size, physical nature, etc.).

Until we have candidate defection systems to evaluate, and actually test, it is way premature to discuss storing nuclear devices for this purpose. Probably storing a ready made device would be of no value. When we detect a threat requiring deflection we would first need to organize the whole launch and space probe project, which would likely take a few years (assuming warning times on the order of decade) during which time a nuclear device customized to the mission could be manufactured as needed. If the world decides (after suitable development and testing) that a ready-to-launch-on-short notice vehicle is a good idea to deal with small threats detected months in advance, and it is determined that a nuclear device is the proper technique, then we would only need one such system to be built and kept ready - with a grand total of one special purpose nuclear device.

Comment: Re:HÃ? (Score 0) 419 419

In reality, people with occupational radiation doses have lower cancer rates than the general population.

Which is due to the "healthy worker" effect. People who qualify for working in the strictly regulated occupational radiation environments are healthier inherently than the general population.

In fact, there is NO valid example of a LNT toxin in nature. If you reduce the concentration of any toxin in, say, water, there is always a point at which its medical impact drops to zero while there is still some toxin present. This is because natural selection ensures that we can survive the amount of that toxin that we normally find in the environment. This includes the constant drizzle of background radiation that we live in.

In fact, the scientific term for belief in LNT in chemistry is "homeopathy."

Since everyone is subject to background radioactivity, the situation where there is only a tiny radiation exposure and nothing more does not exist. In reality everyone is exposed to significant background radiation, and added exposure sources are in addition to that ever-present background. So the "LNT scoffers" here are claiming sure knowledge that background radiation itself contributes nothing at all to natural cancer occurrence, which is essential to support their belief that small additional increases in radiation also have zero effect. This is something that is in flat denial of radiation biology.

Lots of people get exposed to natural sources of toxic substances that have real medically observable bad effects on them. Excessive natural exposures to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, fluoride ion, in addition to various natural organic compounds, causing serious health problems are all well known, and if you take anyone affected by one of these, add even a tiny additional amount of the toxic substance to their intake, you can expect to get a real increase in harm, however small.

Comment: Re:Concept itself is flawed (Score 1) 169 169

The same logic applies in the military to the people who volunteer for suicide missions and hopeless last stands, and yet those have happened on a number of occasions, often to good effect, and always for a lesser cause than bringing humanity to a second planet.

I notice that you did not cite any such cases. Do you actually know of any, of you just assuming based on... what?

A "hopeless last stand" in which you find yourself facing near-certain death due to battlefield reverses (ambush, surprise attack, collapse of a defense perimeter, etc.) is not the same as a "suicide mission" in which someone who is not in imminent danger of being killed otherwise, is sent out to die on purpose. In fact, people survive "hopeless last stands" on occasion.

Genuine suicide missions are also quite rare for Western societies even in wartime. These certainly happened during WWII, with the Japanese and Soviets at least, but a high chance of dying in a mission is quite different from a mission which has no other possible outcome. Even suicide bombers have a significant chance of not dying, given the failure rate of suicide bombs.

This sort of "mission", sending volunteers to a certain death (no other possible outcome) without any necessity, in peace time, is unknown in any modern Western society as far as I am aware. Having a private organization do it makes it a criminal act.

Comment: Re: Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck... (Score 1) 169 169

Meant to be ironic - but reveals idiocy just as the OP said. Good to remain anonymous, coward.

With this "mission" the chances of death are certain - there is no other possible outcome. This makes it more dangerous than being a suicide bomber, since with that mission there is a chance the bomb will fail to explode (and this has happened many times).

When has the U.S. government in peace time sent any civilian on a genuine, absolutely certain suicide mission? NASA certainly never has. You would be hard put to find any military missions that fit that description, even in wartime.

Comment: Re:Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck... (Score 1) 169 169

Name one peace-time project in which a 100% death toll was a certainty form the get-go.

These things are extremely rare even in major wars (in fact I cannot think of any such missions).

Remember - guaranteed death as the only option is very different from "high risk of death".

Comment: Re:Ahhhh, C++ (Score 1) 757 757

Big, big difference between explicit function references (known to have definitions elsewhere) and redefining the meaning of arithmetic primitives.

Stroustrup explicitly decided not to leave stuff out just because it was abusable. If there was a good reason for a feature to be in (and he was pretty strict on that), he wouldn't reject it because somebody would do something stupid and confusing with it.

And C++ stands as a monument to what you get when you follow that philosophy.

Notice that other languages since have tended to focus on a tighter coherent set of core features.

Comment: Re:Headers are not real (Score 1) 757 757

There are good features and there are bad features. If you don't like funky object features don't use them...

Because everyone writes code from scratch just for their own use?

This lame excuse for a extremely over-complicated language laden with bad features is simply ludicrous in the real world where 80+% of programming is maintaining code that somebody else wrote. Any feature that makes that harder, is a "misfeature".

Comment: Re:Ahhhh, C++ (Score 3, Interesting) 757 757

Any language that allows the programmer to override the '=' operator is truly, verily, bad.

This is, to my mind, the most fundamental problem with C++: it is impossible to look at a page of code in isolation and know what it does, with confidence. Any of the operators could have been redefined to do anything. This is not a theoretical problem, I encountered a code base of horrors that a nerd who though he was God's gift to nerd-dom dreamed up, which had numerous standard operators reassigned to make the code he wrote "look elegant". It was impossible to analyze or maintain.

When the meaning of a simple programming construct is indeterminate, the language that supports it has failed disastrously.

Excessive login or logout messages are a sure sign of senility.